Wake Up (And Smell the Opportunity). What You Are Missing When You Rush (and Sulk) Through Life.
Posted on September 11, 2015
Do you ever wake up in one of those moods? You know, where the Keurig hasn’t even noised its “coffee brewed, enjoy” signal and you already feel defeated? When you want to wallow in your misery and oversized sweatpants under a down comforter and watch reruns of “How I Met Your Mother” for eight hours while shamelessly curling spoonfulls of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey into your mouth … for breakfast? (Hey, we’ve all been there).
That kind of morning.
Well, buenos dias, blogging world. That’s where I was yesterday morning. I did one of those eyes half-shut, half-open sleep walks to the kitchen. I felt bloated. Nothing fit right. The top button of my Anne Klein suit popped off. And if you’ve been there, you know how hard it is on these kinds of mornings to get it together. And, sometimes, it’s hard to shake it off at all. It’s like a squirrel monkey clinging onto a branch with its last toe, its grey colored limbs reaching for an apple hanging off the leaves of a Brazilian nut tree in the middle of the rain forest. Foolishly determined, despite the open-mouthed beasts which wait below, hungrily waiting for a slip-up. Just like that stubbornly ambitious monkey that won’t just find another apple, we cling to this feeling, this wrong side of the bed feeling. It carries with us throughout the day and we curl ourselves up into a big ball of “don’t talk to me.” There’s a question that can be asked when this happens: for when we do this, when we retract within ourselves, what are we closing ourselves off from?
What are we missing?
I took a yoga theory course in college which was really fascinating. Less poses, more lessons on how meditation and exercises of awareness, compassion and relaxation can change your life. Through all of the lessons on tantra and the bhagavad-gita, one lesson in particular stuck with me: closing ourselves off – and why we do that. As an on-the-run kind of society, our line of vision is usually primarily focused on getting where we need to go. A straight ahead point of view. Point A to point B. Rarely do we turn our heads laterally, and if we do, we don’t focus on anything. Our surroundings blur into a consistent form of obscurity. Faces unrecognizable. Sounds muffled. Like a scene from Dali’s Persistence of Memory, our surroundings melt away like his clocks which hang lifelessly from the surfaces of defined objects. Why? In our determined states, we only look one way – and that is ahead. And because of this, we miss a lot of what passes us by. At the time, I thought about the relevance of it all. I would speed-walk the corridors of Fahy Hall as a college student, five minutes late for my romantic lit course, focused on the door of Room 202 closing ahead of me, a friend excitedly shouting “Hey, Olivia!” as I rush by, which I don’t hear but I am reminded of later. I thought of the millions who rush the streets of New York City, those who jet off path trains and run to catch the eight o’clock subway, what they must pass by, what must go unnoticed. I imagine myself on the days I am late for court, rushing through glass doors and security, focused solely on making it to the second floor before the judge comes out. There could be a mariachi band stretched across the granite tiled floors playing old Mexican melodies and I would never notice.
Okay, so I didn’t have Chunky Monkey for breakfast that morning. I did, however, inhale an everything bagel doused with butter, the remnants of poppy nestled between the crevices of my teeth, if that’s even better. My ride to work was a blur. Have you ever arrived somewhere and didn’t remember getting there? It’s like you flew in auto-pilot, your mind in the clouds with someone else taking the wheel and landing you in a familiar place. It’s a little scary. My whole day was like this. I was going through the motions, ejecting the polite “good morning” or “good afternoon” when only absolutely necessary. Keeping to myself in my office. Sleep walking to the vending machine and somehow convincing myself that a ten-piece bag of Twizzlers at three o’clock would lift my spirits. It didn’t. And I got frustrated. Then I thought, what am I even down about? Then I thought about my college professor and that lesson. And then I wondered what I missed.
Rushing through life is quite similar to being in a crummy mood and closing yourself off to the world in a sweeping “screw you” mentality. In both instances, you are barricading yourself from what’s around you. You can’t see what’s waving to you from the outside. The glass is cloudy. So, there it is. We are sometimes so consumed with our bad days and getting where we need to go, that we lose focus of what is going on around us. Although we are here, we aren’t really here. Our presence is locked away in that place where our bad mood lies and our destination awaits.
This discussion reminds me of the Washington Post Experiment from 2007, the article entitled “Pearls Before Breakfast.” For forty-five minutes on a January morning, a man played Bach tunes from his violin in the middle of the DC Metro station. The article noted that 2000 people walked by and only six stopped to listen. 2000. 6. It was later revealed that this man was Joshua Bell, a famous, world-class musician playing masterpieces in the middle of a terminal. Yet, he was a “ghost,” as described in the article – almost like he wasn’t even there. The article explores the interesting possibility that, perhaps, Mr. Bell was the only real person in the room and everyone else, everyone else mindlessly walking past him, were the ghosts. And then a compelling quote which bears so much relevance to this discussion:
“If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that — then what else are we missing?”
My college lesson was: closing ourselves off – and why we do that. There was one question, however, that still remained, even after the course was over – what exactly are we closing ourselves off from? In other words, what are we missing? The answer is opportunity, and opportunity which comes in many forms: friendship, business, beauty., and more. The old friend you passed by as you stormed through Penn Station, hurriedly scouring the overhead signs for departure times, bothered by your annoying coworker who volunteered you to speak at next week’s board meeting. Your potential soul mate who you rushed past with your Starbucks macchiato in hand, the person who graciously held the door for you, the person you forgot to say “thank you” to. The smell of silence on the beach after the rush has gone. The double rainbow appearing after one hell of a thunderstorm, the sky burning with a sunset colored with dusty red hues. The famous violinist in the middle of a metro station.
The point is, the world is a bottomless pit of opportunity. There is a hell of a lot out there; friends to meet; business relationships to uncover; old acquaintances waiting to be re-acquainted; nature looming in the background, broadcasting its message through the gawk of seagulls or the chirp of crickets: remember me?
When your days start day off in a Chunky Monkey kind of way, as mine did, or when you are entirely focused on getting to Point B, it’s natural to want to retract. Don’t. Instead, unravel. Open. Be raw and vulnerable. Leave yourself exposed; to life, to beauty, to possibility. Look around you and appreciate it all, for there are surprises lurking in every corner. But in order to dig our forks in, to snag them, to be in it to win it, so to speak, we have to be aware …and awake.
So, wake up.
Smell the coffee.
Wake up and smell the opportunity.
Until next time,
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